How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers


Tells how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. Readers will learn how to run for office, work with their communities, build a stewards network, train new leaders, run a contract campaign, and strike.

By Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, Jenny Brown, Jane Slaughter, and Samantha Winslow. 232 pages.

How to Jump-Start Your Union should be a beacon to all rank-and-file members on how to bring democracy to their locals. It’s a toolkit that shows how good old-fashioned hard work and faith in the membership can empower every frontline worker.”
—KAREN LEWIS, President, Chicago Teachers Union

Buy in Bulk

Interested in buying a Labor Notes book for your whole study group or steward training conference? Big discounts are available:

  • 5-10 copies = 10 percent off
  • 11-50 copies = 25 percent off
  • 51 copies and up = 40 percent off

You can order discounted purchases online. Simply add the number of books you want to your shopping cart and the discount will be applied automatically!

For questions about discounted bulk purchases, call Labor Notes’ Detroit office at 313-842-6262.

Check Out Some Excerpts from the Book:

Campaigning for Union Office: The CORE caucus in the Chicago Teachers Union combined relentless activism with systematic rank-and-file organizing to convince voters to elect their slate. They made a spreadsheet and divvied up the schools, visiting each three to five times during the campaign. Meanwhile they continued their push to attend every school board meeting and school closure hearing...READ MORE.

Changing to an Organizing Culture: It was clear from the day reformers took the helm that, to defend students and members, the union would need to be prepared to strike when its contract expired. So the new leaders had to transform their union culture: they had to inspire and train members in every school to step up. And they had two years to do it...READ MORE.

‘Wear Red Fridays’ and Practice Strike Vote: The new leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union had begun laying the groundwork for a contract campaign the moment they took office. But as their second school year began, they had to shift into higher gear. By June the union would need to win a strike vote. This meant thousands of one-on-one conversations between leaders in the schools and their co-workers, to assess, re-assess, and re-re-assess their support...READ MORE.

“Labor Notes has done it again! Every unionist should read this book that chronicles how the new leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union organized their members, built strong support with the community, and waged a strike against formidable adversaries. But this book is more—it’s a manual on how all unions can revamp to win justice, with lessons that every union can apply to their own situation.”
—STEVEN ASHBY, Professor of Labor Relations University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“This play-by-play account of one of the most successful strikes in modern U.S. history documents what it takes to level the playing field against corporate masters and politicians. The lessons put forth by Labor Notes should serve as ‘common core standards’ for unionists who seek to re-energize their own organizations.”
—ED SADLOWSKI, JR., Council 31 AFSCME, Illinois

“The power of public sector unionism stems from our ability to be the voice that advocates directly both for democracy and for the consumers of services. In this book we learn how grassroots organizers used this singular role to revolutionize their own union.”
—HETTY ROSENSTEIN, New Jersey State Director, Communications Workers